Aggregators and the Aggregated

Justin Taylor does an interesting job of posting various and sundry. But as always, I have a few questions:

1) Do we need to read Piper in order to have access to the high priest of Christian hedonism, Jonathan Edwards? Why can’t we receive Edwards without a mixer?

2) Has Jed been reading Chuck Colson? It seems that the evangelical hierarchy is headed toward civil disobedience.

3) Why do evangelicals need professional athletes to show the importance of faith? (This may be one of the greatest indicators of a difference between young “Calvinists” and Reformed Protestants — Mike Horton doesn’t know anything about sports.) BTW, how could anyone outside metropolitan New York in good conscience root for the Knicks?

4) Why did Justin miss this one, an editorial (you need to read to the end of the post for the original editorial) that seems to have gone viral among Southern Baptists? Gerald Harris, editor of the Christian Index, is worried about the spread of Calvinism in the SBC. What is interesting is how the associations between Calvinism and Mark Driscoll (yuck!) are hurting the appeal of Reformed theology among Baptists. Those associations may have something to do with the way that Southern Baptist leaders seem to be backing away from the Calvinist label. Plant T-U-L-I-P under a bushel? Yes!


31 thoughts on “Aggregators and the Aggregated

  1. 1. a) NO!
    b) Amen.

    2. {Groan} Probably!

    3. a) Amen; can’t.
    b) Right; can’t. 🙂

    4. We be Baptists first (and maybe last, too!)


  2. I continue to be flattered by all the attention!

    I’ll take a stab at a couple of them:

    #1 I’m lazy.

    #3 Don’t forget that Drs Dever and Mohler don’t know the first thing about sports either.


  3. Something I tweeted yesterday: “The Evangelical’s fuss and fawning over Christian sports figures sure feels (to me) like we Christians are pursuing the praise of men.”


  4. D.G. Hart: 1) Do we need to read Piper in order to have access to the high priest of Christian hedonism, Jonathan Edwards? Why can’t we receive Edwards without a mixer?

    RS: For whatever it is worth, Piper has seriously misread Edwards at some major points. Edwards is not the high priest of Christian hedonism.


  5. It’s not alliancers and southern baptists who want to “bury the tulip”. There are some professors in PCA colleges who warn us about “reducing Calvinism to the tulip”, and in the process eliminate the doctrine of effective atonement. Noel.

    Covenant College Professor Tells us that “Limited Atonement Cannot be Allowed to Function as a Creed” Ten Myths About Calvinism: Recovering the Breadth of the Reformed Tradition , Kenneth J. Stewart, IVP, 2011

    Mr. Stewart’s book is more ideological than historical. He aims to promote conformity to his own notion of tolerance. In the process, he seeks to exclude those he refers to as “thoroughly reformed” (p15) as extremists. Even though they don’t call ourselves that, he will label them that and then blame their “primitivism” for the label he puts on them!

    For example, on p93, Stewart concludes that “TULIP cannot be allowed to function as a creed”. This dogmatism about what cannot be allowed follows a caricature of those who use the acronym “tulip” for Dordt’s response to the five points of Arminius. Stewart writes as if “conservative Calvinists” were more concerned about the acronym than about the specific doctrines. He does this, even though on pages 94-95, he lists various five-point books which use different acronyms.

    (I notice that Stewart has no reference to the book written by McGregor Wright, No Place for Sovereignty, even though it was published also by IVP. Perhaps Stewart has already dismissed Mr Wright to the margins. And the best way to do that is to ignore a person.)

    I notice also that Stewart, who teaches at Covenant College, makes no reference to the Systematic Theology of Robert Reymond, who taught for many years at Covenant Seminary. Perhaps all five point supra-lapsarians have been moved to some forgotten ghetto. Certainly the IVP book, Why I Am Not An Arminian, was strident in its criticism of supra-lapsarians.

    Stewart accuses somebody with having a “Procrustean formula” (p84) and also with being “uncritical”. His criticism is itself an uncritical accusation (a formula) which seeks to be self-fulfilling. If you don’t join him in rejecting the idea of “limited atonement”, then you become guilty of defending the acronym. Since he thinks some of us are on the margins, the purpose of the book is to either re-educate us (the assumption is that we just don’t know the past) or to put us in our place–on the margins where he claims we already are!

    If those who care about antithesis with universal and governmental notions of the atonement are simply “strident” (AW Pink, p280) and “contentious” (Nettleton, p87) and “belligerent” (p85) malcontents, why does Stewart think he needs to “blow the whistle on” them? (p12) The answer is that Stewart thinks the five points are only “one form of Christianity”.

    To him, the five debates are not about the gospel, but at the most, only about finding out later how you came to believe (p16) the “gospel” that all evangelicals have in common. This is why Stewart’s book is endorsed by folks like Richard Mouw, who in his own book, Calvinism in the Las Vegas Airport, explains that “limited atonement” is for him only a “shelf doctrine” which has no practical import, except for his claim to still be a “card-carrying Calvinist”.

    Those who want to dismiss TR’s want to bring forward into history the sufficient formula embraced by Dordt but leave behind limited atonement (intended for the elect alone) as “an index for gauging orthodoxy”. Aiming at “inclusion”, they must exclude those of us who won’t tolerate a propitiation that does not propitiate. Aiming at “accomodation”, they cannot accomodate those who deny that there is “generous room at the cross” for every sinner.

    Stewart can write all he wants about the “adequacy and capaciousness” of an atonement to save the non-elect. But if the death of Christ does not save the non-elect, then it was not enough to save them. The inference would be that God never intended the death of Christ to save the non-elect or because the death by itself is not adequate to save anybody.

    (On this topic of “sufficient/efficient”, I would recommend the book by baptist Tom Nettles, By His Grace and For His Glory, another five-point book not mentioned by Stewart.)

    But Stewart warns us (p89) that if we do not go along with his “sufficient for everybody” Procrustean formula, we will end up in a marginalized “self-imposed ghetto”. He demands that we learn to teach a gospel of which the Arminians can approve.

    Stewart does not seem to notice that the “gospel” held in common by evangelicals is an Arminian antithesis, opposite to the TRUTH confessed by Dordt. To him, Calvinism has nothing to do with God’s effectual call, but only a good thing if learned incrementally and with moderation. As an academic with “breadth” and “diversity”, he thinks some of us “have too much of a good thing.” (p13)

    Instead of discovering that the tradition was not as clear about grace as it could have been, and that it is now better because of more antithesis, Stewart simply assumes that what’s more recent has to be worse. Too much of a good thing is a very bad thing, he tells us, in his efforts to change our notions of what is “moderate”.


  6. I meant to write that it’s not ONLY the southern baptists who want to “bury the tulip”. A lot of confessional folks are doing that also. Perhaps there is a “confessional people inside the confessional” people….

    I John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” If all we only stipulate that the appeasement of wrath will not work without our faith, then it’s not enough to add on that God sent His son to purchase our faith. The nature of the cross as a propitiation will not be proclaimed.

    Since there is only one propitiation, a propitiation for the elect which is also the same thing for the non-elect, amounts to nothing. Does the Neo-Calvinist love the gospel of election, or does he hate the doctrine and suppress it? Yes, Christ loved the church, but the church in the non-election way of talking is not individual names already written in the lamb’s book, but a class of people who put their trust in a “jesus who died for everybody”.

    The Neo-Calvinist does not talk about Christ not dying for the non-elect. Nor does he talk about Christ not dying for those who don’t put their trust in Him. The Neo-Calvinist wants you to give yourself to Christ without knowing anything about election.

    The Neo-Calvinist will even defend this non-election gospel as being the only perspective possible to us. We have to know we believe, before we can know if we are elect. I agree that knowing our election before we believe is impossible. Knowing our election is NOT our warrant to believe. (See Abraham Booth’s wonderful book against preparationism– Glad Tidings).

    But this is no excuse for leaving the Bible doctrine of election out of the doctrine of propitiation by Christ’s death there and then on the cross. We can and should teach the Bible doctrine of election. The Bible doctrine of election does not teach unbelievers that they are elect, nor does the Bible doctrine of election teach unbelievers that they can find out if they are elect without or before believing,


  7. Regarding #3: ding ding ding! That makes me sick to my stomach. The idea that christianity is more credible by the athletes “faith” is sickening. Why else would they go into fits on people like this? pass the barf bag.


  8. So Mike Horton is light in his loafers, too. Phew. But I followed the Jeremy Lin story on NPR this afternoon long enough to learn that Tai eeeevangelicals aren’t the culture warriors that their American eeeevangelical counterparts are–Asian culture is much more self-effacing and introverted than loud-mouthed and prizes obedience over activism. Go Knicks.


  9. So, DG can’t show charity in his comments even on Valentines Day?

    Stuff like this is why I don’t like the Old Life blog. No winsomeness.


  10. DGH,

    Ah, Sir –– I live outside of New York and have been a New York Knick’s fan for decades –– blame my Grandpa for that. Any one remember former bag man John Starkes? Granpa is 94, still doing great –– mind and body –– and a hard boiled World War II vet from the pacific theater at that. He’s a resident of upstate New York, not far from Alexander Hamilton’s old stomping grounds. I’m also a New York Yankee’s fan because of him, and thus, despise the Phillies and my brother Mr Muether’s New York Mets (I rooted for the Red Sox in 1986 to my depression). All of this and I am a Washingtonian, born in Washington DC, and adopted through the Lutheran Social Services Agency. But we are all Confessional brothers, so I will leave well enough alone! =)


  11. #1 Doesn’t Piper seriously misread Edwards? I don’t think that the Piperian-Edwards is identical to the New England Colonial Preacher. Perhaps we could say that Piper is a bad reader of Edwards in the same way that Augustine is a bad reader of Plato.


  12. For the record, I generally avoid reading theological Chucks’ and Charles’. The following Chucks’ and Charles’ are not on my reading list:

    Charles Ryrie
    Chuck Swindoll
    Chuck Smith
    Chuck Missler
    Charles Stanley and….
    Chuck Colson

    Call it personal prejudice, but I generally abstain from Chuck at almost any cost, even if it is ground chuck, as I prefer sirloin.


  13. In all seriousness, a good amount of the issues that Chuck & Co. would tout as permissible civil disobedience would not be where I would draw the line. Besides, why look for a justification for civil disobedience from transformationalists when you can get a far more palatable take from Beza and Co? My grounds for CD are not rooted in the culture war, nor are they likely to ever be used in it’s service. Like I said grounds for CD that I would throw my hat in with:

    1) When obeying the govt would violate a higher ethical obligation, e.g. commands in the decalogue, or NL corollaries.
    2) When a Government stands in violation of it’s own laws.

    Not sure Colson’s arguments coincide with mine, but I haven’t read him so I wouldn’t know.


  14. We need “religious liberty” for papists so we can have “freedom” for Protestants. I understand that. I certainly would agree that Romanists have the civil right to put up billboards that tell all of us— “if you and your wife use birth control, she is a slut”.

    But the question of which laws are “religious” and which laws are “non-religious” gets a bit stickier. As in, which religion? If the nation-state gets to define what is religious, doesn’t that make the state the most religious institution of all? Even though some religions consider contraceptives to be “sin”, do the pope’s bishops get to tell us all what the nation-state’s law should be? Since it’s a sin for the people who work at the factory to use birth control, do the bishops want to mandate that no insurance company charge anybody for exercising their “cultural mandate in regards to family planning”?


  15. Darryl, I’m trying my hand at ESC and so trying to comment in a Trinitarian fashion. So “introverted ,” “self-effacing,” and “Roger Federer.”


  16. Jed, maybe you are to civil disobedience what Baus is to neo-Calvinism. You both claim your respective systems but don’t find a home with any contemporary champions.


  17. Jed, check that, Baus has Clouser and Koysis. So, if Colson et al aren’t contemporary Christian co-belligerents of civil disobedience, do you have others you’d say are simpatico with your views?


  18. John Frame is a “middle knowledge” Calvinist like Bruce Ware. The Doctrine of God, p178–“The Reformed use the word ‘permit’ mainly as a more delicate term that ’cause’….”

    Does this mean that God stopped all the possible tapes of the future, and then made one possibility of each moment to be necessary and certain to happen in that moment? And the next moment again stopped all the possible tapes and….

    And am I saying that God couldn’t so such a thing if God wanted to? If you deny that God makes the bread not bread, liberalism is creeping up on you?


  19. Zrim,

    Jed, maybe you are to civil disobedience what Baus is to neo-Calvinism. You both claim your respective systems but don’t find a home with any contemporary champions.

    So, Stellman is a 2k redheaded stepchild now too? This reminds me of a simple construct:

    1) I adhere to 2k
    2) I believe X
    3) Therefore X is 2k (and Y necessarily isn’t)

    Don’t you think this becomes a slight case of 2k narcissism when it is assumed that your views (or mine, or whomever’s) are considered to be quintessentially 2k? The fact is there is diversity in the field, and I claim no idiosyncrasy with respect to civil disobedience and 2k since my views are rooted in NL thinking. Similar views have been used to validate the construct of NL in 2k doctrine.


  20. Jed, no, that is not how I would characterize things. I know you hear something like that, but I would rather say that there are some 2kers who aren’t convinced that there’s much room for civil disobedience and some who are. But I forgot that you cite Stellman as simpatico, so that answers my question about a contemporary in your corner (unless you have more). I’ve always disagreed with his sympathy for CD but never really thought it harmed any 2k cred.


  21. Jed and Zrim, chalk it up to region. The West Coasters, despite their timidity at street crossings, are much more lawless that those of us in the civilized portions of the greatest nation on God’s green earth.


  22. Zrim,

    And think, we have just solved in a few short comments here what we couldn’t in a hundred previously, namely 2k is a diverse field of thought. I wish theonomists and transformationalists would see this, but sadly they still can’t get past the “Radical” label. I am not sure anything Radical has ever come out of Escondido, just ask the poor kids who live there.


  23. DGH,

    despite their timidity at street crossings…

    I know you’ve seen how we drive out here, pedestrians enter the crosswalk at their own peril – too many soccer moms chatting it up on their phones, and teenage girls texting while rolling through the intersection to warrant pedestrian courage. Last time I checked we still view laws as really good suggestions that we sometimes take into account. Once the Colorado River is crossed the world becomes a strange place. My years in the Midwest had me feeling like a stranger in a different land, and my trips to the East Coast might have just as well been visits to a different, better dressed planet.


  24. Does this mean that only Republicans can be in the Gospel Coalition? But what about the non-macho non-preemptive-war Ron Paul folks, are they Republicans and can they be in the Gospel Coalition? And more importantly, can Chuck Colson and Rick Stupidtorum and Newt be in the Gospel Coalition? Didn’t Colson retain his membership in a baptist church? Couldn’t Rick also be a member of some evangelical church also? I mean–nobody could attend mass every day and not be sincere about it, and besides he supports the right of Israel to do whatever….


  25. Many “Calvinists” pay lip-service to “imputation”, but then they move on to being “relational” with Christ the “person” and think that’s more important than any dull “algorithm” about imputation. They are glad that they themselves are “relevant” when it comes to their “sanctification”. To them, their “sanctification” by works is an “opportunity” to succeed or fail (and thus to be rewarded or punished).

    compete: “When the preponderance of my thoughts about my daily life with God are only seen from the perspective of Christ’s substitution and my unworthiness to merit his favor, not only do I miss the joy and motivation of knowing my deeds today can actually please God, but I can be left with a distant, abstract, academic view of my relationship with him.”

    mcmark responds: Sanctification by competition does not deny justification by imputation. But it does minimize justification as only one “perspective”. We live in a day when there are no more antitheses.

    Notice the puritan emphasis on “my thoughts”. The writer makes no biblical distinctions between sanctification by Christ’s blood and sanctification by Christ’s Spirit. Instead, he wants us to think about what we are thinking. In his pietistic disregard for the doctrinal “abstract and distant”, he wants to get to what is “actual”. Of course he doesn’t say that justification isn’t actual but he wants us to be thinking less about that and more about what’s “real”.

    Again, I am not caricaturing. I quote “compete”– “I can begin to assume that it is only the perfect Christ that “God sees” (as though it were all some visual reality and not a relational reality). It is as if I am now, at least theoretically, absent from the relationship and if not absent, in some way made so irrelevant that my thoughts and actions can neither please him or grieve him in any real way.”

    Mark responds: At the end of the day of course, it doesn’t matter what we want. The salvation by works teacher wants to be relevant, at least in his own “sanctification”. And of course, the thrill of victory is never so sweet unless there was a possibility of the agony of defeat. So the teacher wants to be present in his relationship with God in such a way that his “sanctification” depends on him, even though he will of course give his god the credit for his not being like those who thought they were justified but were not because they did not compete. Could have, should have, didn’t….


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